'OHMIGOD, PSX Extreme has lost it!' No we haven't, so shut up and calm your trousers. It's the immediate shock of looking at the overall game score before even reading a word of our review. So we're going to get it out of the way right here, right now: Bayonetta is a flippin' awesome game for the Xbox 360, and a merely good game for the PlayStation 3. Just how awesome? Well, in the conclusion we mention just how high we'd score the Xbox 360 game if we could, so that's that. Now, because this is a dual review, Ben is handling the gameplay, and I'll take over for the technical stuff (engine, visuals, sound) and the conclusion. So, here's Ben words...
Before I get into it, I must beseech you: please do not make any snap assumptions concerning the presentation and style of this game. I’ve seen many examples of overly judgmental gamers coming to misguided conclusions simply due to the main character’s brazen sexuality. There is an ongoing belief that has taken root in the gamer population, that when they see adolescent titillation, it somehow automatically lessens the overall quality of the game. In other words, many believe the primary focus of a game like Bayonetta might be cheesy temptation, and the actual gameplay was ignored because of this supposed fixation. However, I promise you this is not the case. Platinum Games has engineered one of the most accomplished action titles in history, which is the reason why the better version of this game raked in so many high review scores. The critics aren’t 14-year-old children, easily swayed by a curvaceous form; those scores were legitimately earned. What were the scores for BMX XXX, again…?
But all that being said, I have to address the major drawbacks in the PS3 version that you’ve likely heard before in other reviews. First of all, the game simply doesn’t look as good, which is a definite issue because the title won’t be winning any “Best Graphics” awards in 2010, anyway. Secondly, the loading times are longer and more frequent in the PS3 version, and screen tearing and slowdown is more evident. Thirdly, because the latter shortcoming directly impacts the gameplay, you’re looking at an overall inferior package, which will undoubtedly annoy most PS3 owners and fans. The worst part is that because this adventure isn’t long, you’ll have less reason to go back through a version that isn’t quite up to par. I’m really not sure why the developers took this route; having Sega port it couldn’t possibly be seen as the best option and on top of which, the technical lagging is a serious problem in such a project. Due to the unbelievable speed, fluidity and seamlessness are crucial.
As most of you know, I have the 360 version, which means we can make an effective comparison and while I’ve said some bad things about the PS3 version, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. If you don’t have a 360 but still adore fast-action slashfests, you should definitely consider a purchase at some point (perhaps when it drops in price). The bottom line is that this combat system is downright supreme in every sense of the word. The sheer amount of possibilities is absolutely mind-boggling; this becomes even more amazing when you realize that you can purchase many more weapons, techniques and items as you progress. Do you have any idea what the end result is? I will say, without any reservation whatsoever, the single most capable, competent and diverse main character ever seen in any action extravaganza. Note I’m not saying she’s the “best,” because that involves other things, like character development and design. I’m strictly talking about the combat here, and it’s just so goddamn…pretty.
It’s the skill and attention paid to every detail of Bayonetta’s movement. This includes everything from the most basic attack – which almost never appears “basic” – to the most complex combo or over-the-top torture attack. You can pick up weapons dropped by vanquished enemies, enable the bad-ass Witch Time by dodging at the last second (you remain at top speed while everything else is in slo-mo), and ripping off the most intricate combinations has never been so satisfying. There’s also a goodly assortment of platforming and even a wee bit of puzzle solving, along with a surprisingly engaging story that takes more of the limelight than you might expect. Bayonetta can use her powers to walk on walls and ceilings, which frequently results in some outrageously amazing battles, and her magic can also be used to walk on water and do…umm…cool things with her hair. Finishing moves on big enemies are called “Climax Actions” (‘snicker’) and these offer the same extra incentive as the torture moves: press a button really fast to max out the damage.
It’s a demanding, brutal endeavor on the “Normal” setting. Of course, you should consider this “Hard” because the three settings are “Very Easy,” “Easy,” and “Normal.” The developers called this game “sadistically hard” and while I won’t go quite that far, it’s a definite challenge and one that will cause you to replay chapters. This will allow you to farm up more Halos to spend on new items, techniques, and weapons at Rodin’s store. Each new skill, combo or deadly weapon can be accessed with a bit of practice but the instant you think you’ve got a firm handle on everything, more sh** comes down the pike. The enemy designs are sweet as hell, the backdrops and areas are nicely created and the boss battles are memorable and fittingly insane. What more can you ask for from a game like this? …oh, right, a better PS3 version. Well, it’s too bad the latter version trips and stumbles a bit due to the technical issues but the gameplay is still of that taxing, rewarding kind that true action aficionados will crave.
Yes, the 360 version is better and if you have the opportunity, get it. However, I will add that if the style doesn’t suit your palette, you might want to take a pass. It really is in your face all the time. Personally, I love it. I think this tongue-in-cheek presentation is hysterical (I never play without a smile on my face, and I laugh outright at Bayonetta’s attitude) and I’m all about the cheesiness. Her one-liners are delivered with seductive alacrity, she poses and dances, she uses lollipops for health, she spanks enemies as one of her punishment maneuvers, she doesn’t walk; she struts and best of all, her cocky, come-hither countenance strikes just the right appealing, comedic chord with me. We’ve got a B-movie setting with the flash and panache of a stylish Devil May Cry glossy veneer, and if that sounds at all intriguing, dive into one of the most accomplished action projects you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
But, as we mentioned before, and this is a but that's larger than Kim Kardashian's, the technical drawbacks of the PlayStation 3 version really hurt this one. Ben only mildly touched upon just how bad the issues are, but that's what I'm here for. See, he's written the gameplay based on the Xbox 360 game, and unfortunately for me, I don't own an Xbox 360, I simply steal my friend's unit every now and then. That said, I'm stuck with the lowly PlayStation 3 version, and yes, all the flack it's getting is well deserved. Despite what you may have heard regarding Sega optimizing Bayonetta's American PS3 release, it's all hogwash. Playing a game that's just one giant loading screen is not optimization, it's the very opposite, in fact.
I don't know exactly what Sega optimized here, but had they clearly overlooked the flagrant foul that are the never ending load screens. And by never ending, I don't mean that they're extremely long...well, they are long, but I also mean that they don't stop. The game constantly loads and loads, every flipping little action you do, whether you pause the game, enter a slightly different location, pick up a freaking item...everything triggers a load. Sweet mother of God, and to make matters worse, the actual load times in between levels approach the minute mark in some cases. It's an absolute travesty, and I'm showing a great deal of self-restraint here, because my true feelings are a lot harsher than these words.
As far as the visual package, Bayonetta is a 3rd party game that would've been marginally acceptable back in 2006 during the PlayStation 3's infancy, but not 2010 when it's approaching it's fourth year. If low-profile developers can make their multiplatform games look virtually identical these days, there's no reason why a massive company like Sega can't. The differences between the two games are stark: the PlayStation 3 boasts noticeably worse texture detail, tons of screen tearing, and a framerate that refuses to run anywhere near 60 frames per second. The PlayStation 3's framerate tends to hover anywhere between 40, and will dip below 20 often enough (and usually during the worst moments). Inconsistent? That's an understatement, sir. Bayonetta isn't an ugly looking game, but it is marred with a plethora of issues that really hold it back, and for that, even its gameplay suffers.
The audio is not for everyone. I (Arnold), for one, do not like the soundtrack very much at all. I prefer the darker soundtrack of a game like Devil May Cry. Bayonetta very much the opposite of that, and it's not exactly a fitting note for a game this chaotic, brutal, and violent. On the other hand, the voice acting is what's tough to judge here. The voice work is intentionally bad, and it's not the voice actors themselves, it's just the absurd dialogue that, quite frankly, no one can possibly act without sounding absolutely silly. So it's a love it or leave it ordeal. Personally, I hate it. But Ben loves it. It's purely subjective, and because it is an intentional characteristic of the game (it's supposed to be B-grade movie cheese), we'll give the audio a thumbs up.
So, what's the verdict? Simple: buy the Xbox 360 version. The PlayStation 3 version of Bayonetta is a mess we haven't seen from a multiplatform game in quite some time, and this is simply a slap to the PlayStation 3 community who so eagerly looked forward to a maniacal action romp. Is Bayonetta for the PlayStation 3 not even worth playing? Well, I'd suggest a rental, at the very least. You'd likely replay the Xbox 360 version numerous times, but once will be more than enough on the PS3, because the loading simply gets to you. PlayStation 3 owners should just save their money for God of War III. If you have both HD consoles, buy the Xbox 360 game. If you have only the PS3, rent it and save your money. That said, just how much more do we prefer the Xbox 360 version over the PlayStation 3 game? Well, had we reviewed the Xbox 360 version, we'd have easily given it a 9+.
1/13/2010 Arnold K. and Ben D.